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What the Polls Say Today: Outliers Show Tudor Dixon and Lee Zeldin Surging

The next governors of Michigan and New York? Maybe but maybe not Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photos: Getty Images

Welcome to “What the Polls Say Today,” Intelligencer’s daily series breaking down all the latest polling news on the 2022 midterms.

Seven days before Election Day, the overall midterms picture is looking up for Republicans. With early voting under way in most states, it seems that a Republican wave of undetermined size is approaching, putting the Senate into play and very likely delivering the House to the GOP. But in weather and in politics, forecasts are often wrong, and there are multiple unknown factors to take into account.

Here’s what the polls are telling us today:


Governors Tudor Dixon and Lee Zeldin?

More often than not, polls of specific races tend to converge somewhat just prior to Election Day as evidence comes in of the likely shape of the electorate. Not in 2022, it appears. Particular pollsters known for recently rating Republican candidates highly are really diverging from the pack in a number of key races. A new poll of Michigan from Insider Advantage shows Republican Tudor Dixon in a tie with Democratic incumbent governor Gretchen Whitmer. And a new poll of New York from Trafalgar Group similarly shows Republican Lee Zeldin in a tie with incumbent Democratic governor Kathy Hochul.

IA’s Michigan poll, a one-day, small-sample LV survey with a 4.2 percent margin of error, conducted for the Trumpy online site American Greatness, has some interesting crosstabs. It shows Dixon beating Whitmer among millennial and Gen-Z voters, a result that would certainly overturn a lot of conventional wisdom about young voters. It also shows a giant (21 point) Dixon lead among self-identified independents, which is more plausible than the youth-vote numbers, but still eyebrow raising. It’s worth noting that Whitmer had a 54/43 job-approval ratio in a survey by Morning Consult published just three weeks ago. And two other polls in the last week had Whitmer leading Dixon 52/43 (WDIV/Detroit News) and 51/44 (Cygnal).

Trafalgar doesn’t release many crosstabs, but it calculates a 2.9 percent margin of error in its latest poll showing Lee Zeldin doing very well in blue New York. A Trafalgar survey in early October was the first poll of the cycle showing Zeldin making a real race of it, trailing Hochul by two points, though more recently Quinnipiac had Hochul’s lead at four points. Two mid-October polls showed Hochul leading by eight points (The Hill/Emerson) and six points (WNYT/SUSA). Clearly the race has tightened down the stretch, but nobody other than Trafalgar is showing Hochul losing her lead entirely.

So are the two new Michigan and New York polls outliers or prophecies? We won’t know for at least a week, but it’s a reminder of why it’s always good to look at polling averages, which at RealClearPolitics show Whitmer up by 3.6 percent and Hochul leading by 4.5 percent. Meanwhile, FiveThirtyEight, which makes election forecasts based on polls and other input, places the probability of a Zeldin win at 4 percent, and of a Dixon win at 12 percent. A Zeldin upset would be of enormous symbolic value to Republicans, who haven’t won a major New York statewide race since 2002. But a win by Dixon would put an election-denying MAGA extremist in charge of a key 2024 battleground state.


Nothing-to-see-here states: Colorado and Missouri

Even as certain pollsters squint at the numbers and see possible shocking Republican upsets in Michigan, New York, and Washington, one race Republicans were chattering about earlier remains a snoozer: Colorado’s Senate contest between Republican moneybags Joe O’Dea and Democratic incumbent senator Michael Bennet. The Democrat, who in two past races has failed to win a majority, is at exactly 50 percent in the RealClearPolitics polling averages, and has a 7.7 percent lead over O’Dea, whose limited fame is associated with his acknowledgment of some abortion rights and an attack on him by Donald Trump. Bennet has led by five points (in a Trafalgar Group poll back in August) or more in every public poll. A new poll from The Hill/Emerson shows him leading 51-43. Bennet’s ticketmate, incumbent governor Jared Polis, is doing even better, trouncing once-promising Republican Heidi Ganahl 54-40 in the new Emerson poll, and leading in the RCP averages by 15 points.

Meanwhile, a new poll of Missouri from The Hill/Emerson reminds us that the state’s U.S. Senate race was once watched very closely as a possible Democratic pickup. Republican Eric Schmitt leads Democrat (and brewery scion) Trudy Busch Valentine by a 54-40 margin. In retrospect, Democratic chances in this race collapsed along with the GOP primary candidacy of former governor and scandal magnet Eric Greitens, who would have been a real problem for Republicans nationally. Schmitt leads in the RCP polling averages by a solid 51-39 margin.

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What the Polls Say Today: Lee Zeldin and Tudor Dixon Surge?